Is In-Person Training Worth the Effort?

In recent years, digital technology has transformed the world of employee training.

Organizations can quickly give employees on-demand access to hours and hours of educational videos and materials. Communication about training topics (and about pretty much anything else) has become much simpler and easier thanks to smart personal devices and apps.

These tools make it easy for employees go through their training programs on their own schedules and at their own pace. Some programs even let employees interact with the material through quizzes and surveys.

Another big perk of software tools is that they track employees’ training progress and keep a record of their training history automatically, which can save hours of administrative work. This automated recordkeeping can also come in very handy in the case of lawsuits or other compliance issues.

With this kind of technology available, managers might begin to wonder if live employee training is needed. But in-person training offers unique advantages that should not be ignored.

The Advantages of Live, Expert Instructors

Paying for an expert to come train your staff in person is generally more expensive and less convenient than online training programs, but these benefits can make the training more effective, which can lead to a better return on investment.

Better Communication

Many of the messages people communicate to one another have nothing to do with the words they use and everything to do with nonverbal cues. Body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can send messages that directly contradict messages being sent by words. (That’s why we urge our clients to understand that the skills of listening and apologizing should be considered as just as important as other career-related skills.)

Messages are almost always more clear and effective when you’re communicating face-to-face. This is true regardless of whether the conversation is part of a meeting to kick off a project, or part of diversity awareness training.

During employee training, a live, in-person trainer will be able to tell when their audience may feel confused or uncomfortable with the subject matter and adapt to those non-verbal messages. They can gauge their audience’s reactions in real time. (A video training course, of course, can do nothing of the sort.)

Similarly, your employees can pick up a lot more of the nuance and meaning from the trainer, especially as discussions develop

Considering virtual-instructor-led-training? Check out this download: 3 Best Practices for VILT Success

An Interactive Experience

When employee training is delivered in-person by an expert trainer, that trainer can answer employees’ questions as they come up and give deeper insight into material as necessary. That kind of depth is difficult to achieve when training is more passive and one-sided.

Plus, when employees understand that they’re expected to take an active role in the training experience, it keeps them more alert and engaged in the material.

Perhaps most importantly, the best in-person instructors offer a employees a chance to practice the concepts that they’ve learned in the course.

At ELI, we call this type of practice the “flight simulator.” It gives employees the chance to make mistakes in real scenarios and correct them with the help of a professional. (Consider for a moment whether you’d settle for letting employees teach themselves other critical skills, such as how to operate specialized equipment, by simply reading a manual or watching a video.)

Practice and live interaction can take a passive training experience and turn it into something actionable that employees are more likely to remember and use.

Up-To-Date, Relevant Content

It’s an expert’s job to keep up on the latest trends and news that apply to the topics they’re about to teach your employees.

This tends to make their presentations more relevant and engaging than static training programs accessed online. Even if these online training materials were recorded or written relatively recently, there’s no way for them to incorporate the morning’s headlines into the content.

This point was illustrated clearly in the midst of the “Me Too” movement, when new scandals were being exposed daily. Imagine how much less effective watching a standard sexual harassment awareness video would have been in that time, compared to a discussion that took advantage of some of the day’s news.

Timely examples and anecdotes help make relevant connections from the material to real life, and bring a fresh angle to the material.

Live providers make sure that content is up-to-the-minute, but also can tailor that content so that it serves each workforce’s unique needs.

It’s difficult for any e-learning system to customize their experiences to that level of detail. Although some online training programs may be industry-specific, a live trainer takes it even further to address specific cultural problems that you’ve noticed at work.

Alternatives to Live Instructors

Most HR leaders intuitively understand that a live, in-person training with an expert has significant advantages over more passive, online training.

The problem is there can be quite a gulf between the budget and logistics required for each.

In particular, arranging live training can be a challenge for organizations whose employees live in various time zones, are frequently traveling, or are simply spread across offices in different cities.

There’s generally lots of back and forth required to find the best training dates and times for everyone, then there’s the task of arranging for employees’ or trainers’ travel to a central location and accommodations.

Considering virtual-instructor-led-training? Check out this download: 3 Best Practices for VILT Success

However, there are ways of leveraging the benefits of a live expert that can cost a little less than flying someone out to your central location.

As we mentioned in the post How to Provide Training on a Small Budget, companies are taking advantage of “Virtual Instructor-Led Training” options such as the one we offer at ELI.

This method attempts to leverage the convenience of internet-connected tools while still providing the interactivity, customization and relevance of a live instructor experience. Remote employees participate in VILT through a high quality video conferencing platform. They can interact with the trainer through their computers using interactive polls.

Another more affordable option some companies prefer is to get one of their current employees trained and credentialed in award-winning training methods so that they can provide expert-level training to the rest of the staff. (At ELI, we call this our “Train-the-Trainer” program.)

Finally, although video training may not be as powerful as in-person training, it does have strengths of its own. E-learning may be particularly well-suited for reinforcing key concepts, for use in highly effective microlearning techniques.

Whatever solution you choose, keep in mind that even the most convenient training will still be a waste of both time and money if it isn’t actually effective. The real payoff for most employee training programs only happens when employees improve their behavior.

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